Music gives Aleks Marioglo second chance at life

A former Windermere High student spoke candidly about his suicide attempt nearly two years ago.


Aleks Marioglo feels like a different person after discovering a passion for music and an ability to easily learn how to play the piano.
Aleks Marioglo feels like a different person after discovering a passion for music and an ability to easily learn how to play the piano.
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It’s not just one thought that drives a person to attempt suicide, Aleks Marioglo said, and it isn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision.

“People don’t just wake up feeling suicidal,” he said.

For this 18-year-old Horizon West resident, it was the constant, daily reminders that he was no longer living in Ukraine but in a new country where he had trouble learning the language and making friends, where he had to repeat the eighth grade, where the high school population was much larger than back home. He was living in a place where he didn’t have the dance opportunities he was expecting, where he was diagnosed with depression and had other mental health issues, where he worried his desire to become a musician wouldn’t be fulfilled.

Aleks’ depression spiraled out of control, only pausing on the day he attempted to kill himself nearly two years ago.

Marioglo recounted his family’s move to the United States when he was 14, his increasing depression, his suicide attempt and the state of his mental health today.

He was excited to move to America, where he expected new and positive opportunities.

“My family told me that I would have more opportunities in dance,” Marioglo said. “I have been dancing my whole life. I moved with the idea of doing something bigger. In the Ukraine, you can become super big. I was dancing practically every day of my life.”

He said his first few months in the U.S. were good.

“And then stuff started happening,” he said.

His family arrived in the summer, and he was disappointed to learn that when he started school in the fall, he wouldn’t be attending high school with other students his age. Because he didn’t know much English, he had to attend middle school and repeat the eighth grade.

“It was kind of bad,” he said. “Everyone was speaking different languages, and I couldn’t be a part of anything. I couldn’t speak Spanish, and I couldn’t speak English.”

He said he had to rely on a Russian-English translation dictionary and Google Translate — but when it was time to take a test, he couldn’t use either tool.

He soon realized, too, that the dictionary wasn’t helpful for translating phrases.

 

EDUCATIONAL CULTURE SHOCK

Marioglo attended Dr. Phillips High his freshman year and half of his sophomore year — participating in theater classes and the TV production magnet program and trying hard to understand the rules of “American football” as a member of the squad. In December of his 10th-grade year, he transferred to Windermere High.

“My first year, I didn’t learn any English,” he said. “Even at Dr. Phillips I didn’t have much friends. I didn’t have people who could understand me.”

High school was a culture shock, Marioglo said. In Ukraine, students are in the same small class from first through 11th grades. Here, he was thrust into three large schools, a year behind the others his same age.

By March, he dropped out of school and enrolled in a homeschool program through Florida Virtual School, but his online education didn’t last.

When Marioglo’s persistent sadness worsened, he saw a therapist and was diagnosed with depression and other mental health issues. But he refused to take what was prescribed, he said, because he would rather feel bad than feel medicated and foggy.

“I kept saying to myself that I needed to learn how to live with this,” he said. “It’s something you kind of get used to at some point. Obviously, you never get used to the bad parts of this, but you can make the bad parts work for yourself.”

He explained that when he has what he calls “episodes of depression,” he battles them by going on hours-long bicycle rides.

Something else that boosted his mood was his friendship with a former classmate and her family, who invested time in talking to him and understanding him, he said.

But his positive mood rarely lasted very long.

 

REDIRECTED BY MUSIC

Marioglo’s voice lowered when he explained what he was feeling in the moments before his attempted suicide.

“It was leading to that moment for so long,” he said. “I just couldn’t handle myself anymore. … I had these mental problems, and I was growing up still so I had these hormones, and I had lots of these things going on in my mind. And I couldn’t stop it. It was just a hard time.”

On that day, Marioglo said, he was listening to his favorite musician, Mitch Welling, who performs under the name Flatsound and whose music is filled with pure emotion.

“Before that, I’ve never heard of any single artist who I could connect to on such a deep level,” he said.

“On the day I was trying to end everything, I was listening to him in my headphones,” he said. “I always loved instruments, I always loved guitar, and he was playing guitar and singing. I was listening to him and in that moment, I was giving myself basically that last chance, and I said if I’m not going to be a musician, there’s no point to life. I’ve always had this thought that I wanted to play guitar and piano. I wanted to sing.”

“When riding my bike, I’m kind of trying to get the negative energy out of me. I’m not intentionally trying to think bad stuff; it just happens. … I feel like all these negative things from my mental health — I use it as fuel in order to keep working and keep doing something.”

— ALEKS MARIOGLO

Marioglo chose not to go through with the suicide, and although he doesn’t share the details, he said: “I did it to remind myself that I could still feel. It was more of a, like, I didn’t try exactly to kill myself, but I wanted to hurt myself.”

Moved by a sudden desire to live, Marioglo picked up an old keyboard in his family’s garage and learned how to play with the help of YouTube tutorial videos.

“I feel like because I was a dancer for basically my whole life … I had all these rhythms down,” he said. “I understood groove, (and) dancing helped me think about my piano playing. It was like choreography for my fingers.”

Marioglo said music has had the greatest influence on his mental health.

Extreme exercise routines helped, too. He said he worked out at the gym for three or four hours every day.

“I feel like I would feel so much worse if I just stayed in bed,” he said. “I try to build discipline for myself, I try to do anything that is good for me.”

Marioglo said he can feel when something triggers his depression — constant thoughts keep him from thinking productively, and he can’t sleep.

When thoughts start bringing him down, he goes to his “safe places,” which are on his bike or in his bedroom, where he has a piano.

He plays often and would play 24 hours a day if he could, he said. That’s when he is happiest. “Most of my friends knew I wanted to end everything,” he said, acknowledging that he frequently shared his feelings of sadness with friends. “They told me, ‘You always say that, you always say that.’ They just always thought I was a sad person.”

Marioglo had a message to parents regarding their teen’s mental health: “I feel like they’ve got to understand that it’s all about the communication. … If your son is 16 and coming home and saying he’s fine, don’t just accept that it’s fine. Sit him down and talk to him.”

Constant and meaningful communication is key to connecting people with one another.

“I feel like it’s about the people around (you),” he said. “If one person from school had said, ‘I see you don’t feel good today. Do you want to talk about it?’ I feel like if one person had said that, it would have made a difference.”

For Marioglo, it was a tremendous help having a friend who tried to understand what he was going through. This friend was his lifeline.

“I feel like people around can make so much more difference than you think,” Marioglo said. “It might not change you as a human, but one little thing can lead to another, and those little things can get a person from the bottom to the top. That’s basically how I did it.

“You have to do these little things,” he said. “Sometimes you can’t do the step; you need someone to help you out. It’s all about people around you. A person who really wants to die, he can’t help himself. He’s experiencing these things over and over every day. It’s not that he wants to feel that way, it’s not his fault. He can’t help it. It’s actual problems.

“People who look happy, they’re experiencing stuff, too,” he said. “I was hiding it, how I feel. For me, I knew if I would stop hiding it, it would kind of show me as a weak person.”

A tattoo on his left hand reminds him of his survival and strength and gives him continued hope for his life. Marioglo ordered merchandise from Flatsound, and when the package was delayed, the artist wrote a personal note and ended it with a drawing of a small branch with several leaves.

That image became Marioglo’s tattoo.

“He just changed my life so much,” he said of Flatsound. “He basically saved me.”

 

 

author

Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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